A heated dispute over Indigenous land escalated again on Thursday in a bitter war of words between the Greens and Labor in the Queensland parliament.
The dispute over Indigenous land where a major highway upgrade is being constructed has continued to fester as the Palaszczuk government accused the Queensland Greens of exploiting a culturally sensitive issue for political gain.
Kabi elders have been camping out at an area near Gympie allocated for the extension of the Bruce Highway north of Brisbane.
The group has said the site contains various artefacts, including remnants of standing stone statues; numerous stone circles; and intangible places of significance such as a Seven Sisters Dreaming site, a healing site and a sacred women’s area.
They have been passionately supported by Greens MP Amy MacMahon who blasted the Labor government in a speech delivered on Wednesday night.
The member for South Brisbane likened the dispute to the highly controversial blasting of the Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto and accused the government of “dismissing and belittling” Indigenous rights over development opportunities.
The accusation infuriated Transport Minister Mark Bailey who said Ms MacMahon’s protest was culturally ignorant and supportive of a group not registered as the native title claim.
He said his department has worked with the recognised claimant of the Rocky Ridge area, the Kabi Kabi people, since 2014 with thorough investigations of the area revealing no tangible evidence of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Mr Bailey told parliament on Thursday his department met with Ms MacMahon last week to discuss concerns about the disputed area.
“During that meeting I was stunned to hear the member question the legitimacy of the Kabi Kabi Traditional Owner’s Native Title claim,” he said.
In a scathing letter directed to Ms MacMahon tabled at the time of the speech, Mr Bailey said “your assertion of legal breaches is simply nothing more than a political assertion unsupported by the weight of facts and evidence”.
“I am deeply concerned that the proper role and functions of the registered traditional owner group, which has been properly appointed to represent the Kabi Kabi people, is being usurped by certain individuals for their own purposes and exploited for political purposes by the Greens Party.
“It is important that we non-Indigenous people respect the traditions, customs and processes of the family groups and not seek to exploit any issue or any individual’s cause for our own purposes — particularly for cynical political purposes.”
In the tabled letter, Mr Bailey extended an invite on behalf of the registered Kabi Kabi group to meet with Ms MacMahon and her colleagues to discuss the issues related to the dispute of the land.
NCA NewsWire was told Ms MacMahon is keen to accept the invitation.